Most people still think of spray paint, tags, and murals when they hear the term. But increasingly, the genre can encompass everything from miniature wooden sailors set afloat in a river of urban rainwater, to rainbow-colored origami radiating across the facade of a centuries-old French church. Here are 10 examples of artists whose creativity and unique vision pushes the boundaries of what we consider street art or, more broadly, the expanding field of “urban intervention.”
After studying graphic design in school, Jaune arrived in Brussels from the Belgian countryside. He was initially shocked by the bustle and disarray of the city, as well as its graffiti. The signature street art style he developed there involves minute, stenciled depictions of what he calls “little trashmen,” characters who interact playfully with existing urban architecture, street art, and scribbled tags—“narrating them a little bit,’ he says, “not to erase the graffiti, but to put a highlight on it.” He’s brought these miniature figures across Europe and beyond, from Scotland and Norway to Switzerland and Indonesia.
Jaune’s now-familiar stenciled forms, with their neon safety jackets and hard hats, carry multiple meanings. “The trashman,” he says, “is kind of the scavenger of our society.” he explains. “They are cleaning the world but they are insignificant, invisible.”
They are, however, always willing to lend a hand. Jaune recalls a woman who once solicited him to help cover up a troubling piece of graffiti near her home—a bright pink rendering of male anatomy. But instead of obscuring the phallic tag, Jaune added a tiny trashman who appeared to be painting the obscenity himself. To his surprise, the woman approved of the improvisation. “It was a brilliant moment.”